PULLMAN – Isaac Bonton made a handful of key shots from various angles to lift Washington State over UCLA 79-71 in overtime at Beasley Coliseum.
A defensive highlight in the second half could be the play Bonton enjoyed the most Saturday night as he and the Cougars pocketed their first Pac-12 win.
The Cougars were clinging to a one-point lead with 5 minutes to go when UCLA’s Jules Bernard slipped past Bonton and rose for a two-handed floater just inside the free-throw line. The WSU guard emphatically spiked the ball out of Bernard’s hands and to the floor where teammate Noah Williams collected it.
The blocked shot came at a pivotal point in the game and it came against an old rival for Bonton, who once faced Bernard at an AAU event called “Unsigned Hype.” Bonton and WSU teammate CJ Elleby lost to a team with Bernard and other high school standouts.
“Me and CJ were on the same AAU team,” Bonton said, “so we kind of got a little revenge match.
“I knew where his release was coming from and everything, and I just wanted to get back into the play and make a play for us.”
Bonton’s defense has kept him on the floor in a starting role for Smith’s Cougars, even as the Portland native has struggled to locate his jump shot. On Saturday, Bonton paired solid defense with even better offense, shooting 7 of 14 from the field to finish with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Eight of his 17 points came in overtime.
“Isaac’s adjusting to Division I basketball and doing it on that stage against UCLA, what a great opportunity to finally kind of break through,” Cougars coach Kyle Smith said. “He’s had some really great moments and he’s had some struggles and like everyone. He just needs to know we’re behind him. He’s worked hard and he came through.”
Bernard, who was often guarded by Bonton in the game, finished 4 of 10 from the field and 1 of 5 from the 3-point line for 10 points.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.